D-Day 70th anniversary: Trevor Beattie, the ad man who helped hundreds of veterans get to Normandy

 

The advertising guru who created campaigns for Wonderbra and New Labour is the unlikely figure who has helped hundred of Normandy veterans return to France for the D-Day commemorations, for what may be the last time.

Trevor Beattie set up a charity to support the veterans after reading a 2008 front-page story in The Independent about how many could not afford to return for the 65th anniversary in 2009. At the time, the government offered little funding for veterans to return to former war zones except for 50th and 100th anniversaries.

Mr Beattie felt he could help the “living heroes” and he teamed up with the comedian Eddie Izzard to raise close to £500,000. That helped more than 800 veterans to attend the 65th anniversary.

The advertising man from Birmingham gave £30,000 of his own money to help  veterans from the Midlands to travel in 2009. In 2010, he set up the Jack and Ada Beattie Foundation – named after his late parents – and used his celebrity connections to stage fundraisers, including a dinner last weekend aboard HMS Belfast in London.

Mr Beattie, who was in Normandy yesterday, said the 70th anniversary had special significance because the Normandy Veterans Association will be disbanded at the end of the year. “A lot of them are hanging on for this,” he added.

 

He said part of the reason he was so moved by The Independent’s 2008 article was because it was published in a paper that does not have a jingoistic reputation. “What I loved was that it was written by The Independent — not by the Telegraph or the Mail or The Guardian – and it managed to do it without using the phrase ‘Our Boys’ in the headline,” said Mr Beattie. “It was a calm, respectful piece.”

The Government and the National Lottery have provided greater support for the 70th anniversary.

Mr Beattie admitted his involvement might seem surprising, given some of his controversial work, such as the Labour election poster he designed that merged the faces of William Hague and Margaret Thatcher. “I’m very ‘Bob Geldof’ about D-Day,” he explained. “The stuff I’ve done in advertising is no big deal. It’s just made people sit up and take notice and sell a few things. I’ve tried to use the same skills for D-Day.”

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